Covid has affected every aspect of our lives and has had a severe impact on women and children.

In an ideal world, having a baby is supposed to be a magical time for families to come together. Covid has made that impossible and instead of bringing people together, for many mums, Covid restrictions have meant isolation and loneliness. From no partners or support at scans past 12 weeks, to limited birthing partner support in the birth room, being a new mum has been harder.

While midwives and health visitors do an outstanding job under increasingly difficult conditions, they can’t help mums with loneliness. This is where play groups can and did play a major role. Play groups play a vital role in supporting families, while providing a safe environment for babies and young children to play, socialise and learn.

The last seven months has seen free and affordable play group provision vanish. With venues closed, charities, such as the NCT (National ChildBirth Trust), have struggled to provide the support much needed by families.

As well as offering support to parents, play group organisers also have the confidence of families and know which parents and families have skipped meals so their children can eat, which families are struggling for clothes and who may need sign-posting for support with breastfeeding or infant advice, depression and domestic abuse. We are worried about those families that are now going under the radar.

For many parents, play groups were their only social outing and one of the only times that parents can speak to someone not a family member or a child and ask for information that they need or to simply talk about problems to a sympathetic and understanding ear.

While we must adhere to Covid rules and regulations, it is really important that this new and increasing gap in under 2 provision and the impact this can have on parents and families, be recognised. Support for parents, especially new parents seems to have left the political agenda, but the fact remains that the first 1000 days of a child’s life are still the most important to babies and families and we, the charities that offer free or affordable play group provision, parent to parent support, breastfeeding and infant feeding specialist support – need clear National Government and Local Government plans to help us give local families the help and support they need and deserve.

By Cllr Philippa Storey, NCT Co-Ordinator Teesside


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